Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Baim Views: Playing Games/Gay Games VII Breaks Even

Baim Views: Playing Games
Copyright by The Windy City Times

Doing any large-scale event requires a huge amount of teamwork. Doing one “under the gun” in a quick timeframe with a competitive event also means heightened stress, scrutiny, and a mountain of conflict and controversy.
After all, some people have the personality to love the adrenaline of jumping off a cliff, and others step back and wait to hear if there’s a loud crash at the bottom.

Producing the 2006 Gay Games in?Chicago required, to state the obvious, a lot of blood, sweat and tears. It tested the limits of individuals, and it also provided an opportunity for Chicago to shine.

As Co-Vice Chair of the Gay Games VII board, I was intimately involved in all aspects of the event. Our team of board, staff, volunteers, sponsors, donors and vendors had a herculean task, and we certainly admit that things were not perfect. With more time and resources, including more staff, we might have accomplished even more. But at every turn, we made sure to watch the bottom line, to make decisions based on a conservative plan, and to do what was best for the City of Chicago.

To list our key allies and partners would be impossible. There were thousands of people, businesses and non-profits who helped us. There were many who also tried to hurt us, or who stood on the sidelines. But for the most part, we experienced amazing support from our community and the Chicago region, from the city of Chicago itself to Oak Park,?Evanston, Crystal Lake and beyond.

What we learned could fill many volumes, in terms of what works for a Gay Games and even for larger multi-sport events. We operated on a budget of around $9 million cash plus $13 million in barter ( supplies, services, marketing, etc. ) . Olympic budgets are measured in the billions, for an event that actually has fewer athletes than the Gay Games. We learned to make choices each day based on the athletes and the economics. We avoided flash and parties, and focused on realistic goals.

Many people will have opinions about what worked and did not for the Gay Games; all I can really do is reflect on what it meant for me.

As the publisher of Windy?City Media Group, the Gay Games caused me to think far outside the normal box of publishing. It forced me to get out from behind my computer and camera to visit places around the U.S. and the world. I was able to meet athletes and performers from all parts of our planet, and it really opened my eyes to our community’s true diversity. My mother was a great world traveller, but I had rarely desired to leave the constant happenings of Chicago. Prior to the Gay Games, I was unable to be absent—the Gay Games forced me to delegate, and to learn from gays and lesbians beyond our country’s borders.

I also learned so many new skill sets, including development, scholarships, government relations, venues, culture, marketing, ceremonies, and more. I was forced to juggle dozens of meetings each day, all over this region, and I was able to see so much more about what makes our government and institutions work.

Probably the most long-term impact for me was meeting so many new and amazing people. While I have to say many folks let us down, far more really shined in their contributions to our success. There were individuals and companies who went so far beyond our expectations, that my tears at the Opening Ceremony July 15, 2006, at?Soldier Field really were for those behind the scenes.?So many gave so much, not for the recognition, but to be part of something bigger than themselves.

These people, and these companies, are what kept me inspired on a day-to-day basis, in those two intense years prior to the Gay Games, and in the following year after, when we still had a DVD to produce, and final fundraising to do.

Looking back, I am not sure how we actually did what we did. I could list the building blocks, list all the meetings, even list many of the people who played vital roles. But the glue that held it all together was magical. Whether it was Dick Uyvari and Joe La Pat inspiring other donors, Mayor Daley’s incredible speech at Soldier Field, a vendor further discounting services, or a volunteer showing up at 4 a.m. at the triathlon to put out the Gatorade. Whatever it was, we were a very fortunate board of directors, to have been so blessed in our support.

What was most important to me were those people who stood by us, even when things were toughest. They would e-mail, call or send post cards cheering me on, especially when we would face yet another attack from Montreal’s competing event. The friends and family I had standing by my side empowered me to face even the toughest and most negative enemies, those that made this a personal fight, or those who would try to ruin our individual reputations for their own personal gain.

My partner Jean processing thousands of photos, my sister Marcy and brother Clark driving soccer shuttles, my dad Hal taking photos, my employees taking on extra work so I could attend even more 6 a.m. meetings—all became my heroes. My friends who gave every dollar they could, and new friends I made because of the Gay Games, also motivated me through the final hurdles.

I thank all of them, and all of the volunteers I never was able to meet. Our victory—the Gay Games finishing as a break-even effort—is for the entire community to share.

— Tracy Baim, Publisher, WCMG;

Co-Vice Chair, Gay Games VII

Gay Games VII Breaks Even
by Ross Forman
Copyright by The Windy City Times

Gay Games VII, held last July here in Chicago, did what hadn’t been done in 20 years: it broke even financially.
Chicago Games, Inc., ( CGI ) the host organization for the event, announced last week that it has completed its post-Games fundraising and wind-down process and that the 2006 Games broke even, ending a long trend of financial woes in each of the past four Games.

Not since Gay Games II in 1986 had a Games been a stable financial operation at the event’s close down.

And Chicago’s feat is even more amazing given the fact that CGI had two fewer years’ planning time than most Gay Games, it endured a first-ever gay sporting battle with Montreal and also encountered weather woes ( with temperatures of at least 95 degrees, coupled with humidity ) during the first few days of Gay Games VII.

“We are extremely grateful to our many donors, sponsors, volunteers, partners and vendors whose commitment and contributions made [ the break-even ] announcement possible,” said Tracy Baim, CGI board Co-Vice Chair and leader of the wind-down efforts, in a press release. “Each deserves the appreciation of our city and the worldwide LGBT sports community.

“We always knew that it was going to take many months to close down the Games. Our budget included post-Games staffing and post-Games residual marketing, which included the DVD ( sale ) and the photo project.”

Still, though, there was a near-three percent shortfall in their expense-to-income ratio, Baim said, due to the heat wave and other additional expenses. Thus, over the past year, CGI has done additional fundraising and additional negotiations with its vendors.

They bartered with select vendors to come down on invoices, she said.

“Our vendors and our donors came together in a spirit of cooperation to make it happen,” Baim said.

CGI did post-Games marketing and liquidation of physical items, such as computers, sports and office equipment and supplies to break even. There were also branded merchandise items to sell, from t-shirts to street banners and other souvenir items that raised tens of thousands of dollars after the event.

“I think it’s a huge accomplishment, but it was only achieved because of the partners we have. Our vendors cooperated to barter for supplies, and to discount additional services,” Baim said. “I think the accomplishment is great for the entire team, and also for the city of Chicago.”

“We also extend a special thanks to the international Federation of Gay Games for their significant assistance in ensuring that the 2006 Gay Games finished in a financially sound position,” said Kevin Boyer, CGI Board Co-Vice Chair, in a press release.

The biggest local donors were partners Dick Uyvari and Joe La Pat, Chicagoans who significantly funded the Games international scholarship program and created a Gay Games $100,000 matching grant program to assist in the post-Games fundraising.

“Joe and I did what we could do to help get to that final, break-even point,” said Uyvari, a longtime Games supporter who has competed in six of the seven Games ( in bowling ) . “Why’d we do it? Because we could, so why not help out. Why not have it go for a good purpose.

“I think the people running [ the Games ] were the heroes; they’re the ones who got us as close as they did ( to breaking even ) . We just helped out in the home stretch, to give us that last push, to get over that final hurdle.”

Said Baim: “What Dick and Joe did not only was phenomenal for themselves as individuals, but the way they did it was inspiring to other donors.”

Other key post-Games donors included Fred Eychaner, Michael Leppen and former U.S. Ambassador James Hormel and his partner, Tim Wu.

“In 2003, when we launched the bid to host the 2006 Gay Games, we promised our local LGBT community, the City of Chicago, and the worldwide LGBT sports movement that the 2006 Gay Games would break even financially,” said Sam Coady, CGI?Co-Chair, in a prepared statement. “We also made the commitment to leave a lasting and positive legacy for future Gay Games hosts—a sound business model upon which future Gay Games could be built. We are proud today to have fulfilled those promises.”

The FGG will continue to receive royalties from the 2006 Gay Games DVD, photography-based products and residual commemorative merchandise sales.

More than 100 individuals, vendors and partners added their support through cash and in-kind donations and expense reductions. The law firm of Sidley Austin extended its pro bono service, assisting CGI as it wound down operations and finances, as did the design firm of McKnight, Kurland and Baccelli.

The Chicago Games received stiff competition from a similar gay sporting event in Montreal that started one week after the Games ended. The Montreal event ultimately lost several million dollars.

The 2006 Games contributed $50 to $80 million to the local economy, with some estimating that another 10 years of positive LGBT tourism visibility will generate millions more dollars in the long term, according to a CGI press release.

“We promised our community in Chicago that our Gay Games fundraising campaign would not undercut other important community projects, including the Center on Halsted,” said Suzanne Arnold, Board Co-Chair, in a statement. “Three-and-one-half-years later, our beautiful new community center is open and Chicago’s LGBT community is stronger than ever. Our local LGBT sports organizations are the strongest they’ve ever been, offering more sports to more people than ever before.”

Gay Games VIII will be held in 2010 in Cologne, Germany.

“We give Cologne an even more important legacy—a Gay Games movement that is stronger and more vibrant,” Baim said. “I think we really put Chicago on the international map as a great gay city, one of the leading gay cities in the world.”

Gay Games VII?Co-Vice Chair Tracy Baim is Publisher of Windy?City Media Group and Windy?City Times.


Post a Comment

<< Home